September 12, 2016
Editor’s note: From the monthly column, Life is Simple.
Jerry Crownover writes from Missouri.
Many of you will remember that my wife, for Christmas, gave me one of those new-fangled drones to use around the farm and make my life easier. I admit that the flying camera was fun to use, and it did come in handy for a variety of uses. For instance, I was able to fly over a heavily wooded area and locate a missing cow and her new baby…while inciting a stampede of the rest of the herd to the other end of the farm. I also used the drone to find a hole in the fence of a remote area, while causing the cattle to create another hole somewhere else. On another occasion, I used the drone to check for damage along the creek while it was flooded…and spooked a few of the cows into said creek. But, it was fun.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my neighbors stopped by to see if I and my drone could come over and try to locate something his son had lost. He calculated that the lost item was in the top of a tree in some heavy woods east of his house. I told him I would be happy to help him and retrieved my drone from its storage place. But, when I tried to start it, the display screen informed me that I needed to download the latest firmware and install it before the drone would fly. My anxious neighbor wanted to know how long it would take to be airworthy.
“Well, someone that is good with computers could probably do this in about 30 minutes,” I replied. “You better come back next week.”
Sure enough, it took me a few evenings on the internet to successfully download the updates and install them into the miniature flying computer, but I was sure everything was, in NASA language, a GO.
The afternoon before the neighbor wanted me to show up to find his lost merchandise, Judy reminded me, “You better take the drone for a practice flight just to make sure it flies correctly before the neighbor shows up and you’re embarrassed again.”
I knew she was right, but I had just put in a harder-than-usual day of work and was ready to take a shower, eat supper, and assume a reclined position. “Okay,” I dejectedly answered, “I’ll get it.”
Since Judy was sitting on the patio, beside the pool, I took a seat beside her to operate the controls of the aircraft. I placed the drone in the grass, a few feet from the both of us and once the drone had warmed up and alerted me that it was safe to fly, I proceeded to lift off and fly toward the eastern end of our home farm…scaring the cattle once again as I flew over them. Everything about the small helicopter worked to perfection and I was now completely satisfied that the updates were successful.
As I returned the drone toward home, I made the pilot’s decision to land it right beside my comfortable patio chair, so I wouldn’t have to retrieve it from the lawn after landing. I landed it perfectly beside my chair just like I knew I could, but, when I went to perform the procedure to turn off the propellers, the drone tipped onto its side and accelerated…straight into the deep end of our swimming pool. In shock, I watched it slowly drift to the bottom, while my fully-clothed wife jumped into the water to retrieve it.
Drones are not water resistant. My career as a pilot lasted almost seven months.
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